Message on coronavirus to fellow young: ‘Don’t make a deadly difference’
We may feel invincible but family love is to stay away. Do what the doctor ordered
The roads are so empty these days. It’s like Christmas, but the outside world is creeping fingers beneath the doors, wafting in like smoke and making the house a breathless prison where every surface is suspect, and every cough makes me flinch.
Like everyone, I’ve dreamed of being able to fly, or shoot fireballs from my hands, go invisible or move things with my mind, but right now I’d settle for the power to heal with a touch.
But I don’t have those powers, and neither do the doctors, the nurses – the healers we are leaning so heavily on. They just do the best they can.
Most of the time they do more than that, because sometimes the limits of human endurance are just words. We’ve all seen the wobbly smiles of doctors talking on the news, the famous picture of the nurse passed out at a desk.
The truth is that even when we think we are powerless; the only real limit is in what we are willing to do. In this time of global pandemic it’s easy to think that our actions will make no difference. I make the same noise, hearing this, as I make when people tell me that their vote makes no difference. (It’s a rude noise.)
To those who will see the other side of this – there are those who will not
This disease is going to spread. Things will probably get much worse. For those on the frontlines, the heroes, it’ll be a melee. I can’t swan up to a hospital and offer them my unskilled hands. The best I can say is I’m fast at typing.
Lives in our hands
There are other things, however, I can do with my hands. I can wash them. I sing the original Pokemon theme song while I do it. I can keep them away from other people, and the rest of me too.
I keep catching myself thinking, “but I don’t have it anyway”. I’m young and I am probably not going to get it. I might not have it, but I can bring it home. I can get it and I can give it to my asthmatic mother, who is in remission from cancer, who is immunosuppressed, whose kidneys are compromised. I can do that.
And maybe what I do makes no difference, but maybe it does.
I may not be able to intubate a patient, I may not be able to heal, but all the same, like it or not, I have lives in my hands. I feel afraid. I wonder at times what it would be like without the pall cast by the knife’s edge my family balances on, always waiting for my mother to lose her footing.
To those who feel invincible – there are those who are not.
To those who will see the other side of this – there are those who will not.
To those who feel helpless – you are not.
I know from experience that in the face of fears that orbit invisible attackers that can strip our loved ones down to scaffolding from the inside out, it is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do.
My little brother was two when they placed my mother in isolation for over a month because she had no immune system to speak of. She could not have flowers. She was in pain and we could not hold her hand.
The hard truth is that sometimes love is staying away, trusting others, just doing what you’re told
Afterwards I was afraid to lose sight of her. I would check on her at night, stand still in the doorway until I heard her breathing, snoring, sighing in her sleep. Any sign of life was enough. I didn’t save her. Couldn’t.
I was nine. I could work out one side of a Rubik’s cube pretty well. She was saved by men and women in gloves and gowns, nurses who would come running when she called, who would clean away the vomit, and smile, joke, keep laughter trapped in a sterile room.
The hard truth is that sometimes love is staying away, trusting others, just doing what you’re told. In my experience it’s usually best to do what the doctor ordered. Anyone can be wrong sometimes, but not just anyone can catch you when you’re dying.
So, to the young people out there feeling invincible. To those out there feeling helpless, feeling afraid, feeling invincible. Please listen. You make a difference, so don’t be the person who makes a deadly kind of difference.
Emma Tobin is a 22-year-old writer of poetry, prose and fiction from Newbridge, Co Kildare